I have had an iPhone 4 for over a year now and up until recently had hardly any apps on it. After hearing about how useful they can be, I decided to explore what ones might be helpful for maintaining mental and physical health. Of course, I preferred if they were free, but I found myself intrigued by a few of the ones that required payment. So in this post I’ll review 7 of the ones that I thought people who strive for a healthy lifestyle would find most useful.
1. Clear (Productivity App). Price: $2.99. This remarkably simple app makes it easy to make and track lists, whether it’s to-do lists, grocery lists, goal lists, etc. It makes cute little sounds as you add and subtract things from your lists, making it that much more satisfying a process. According to studies, making lists helps us organize our minds, which can in turn help us learn better (or so I was told in my 1st year university psychology class). Clear is really intuitive and easy to use, though you may find that the very act of making these lists makes it so that you don’t actually have to rely on them as much (as is the case with me).
2. Zombies, RUN! (Running App). Price. $7.99. 3 words: Running for nerds. I must confess that I am not all that motivated to run despite its health benefits, but after trying this app, I find myself much more compelled to strap on my running shoes to go on a “mission.” It’s turns your running into a zombie video game or movie. It gives you little clips of dialogue that involve your running activities in the story of the town of Abel, a town that’s been overrun by zombies. As you run, you pick up various supplies, which the computer informs of you as you make progress in your run. If you so desire, you can include random zombie swarms in your run. Basically the computer informs you of an incoming swarm telling you their proximity, which is a cue for you to pick up your speed in order to escape. If you so desire (like I do), you can include your own soundtrack in between dialogue by way of your playlists, including the option to shuffle the songs. While the price tag may seem steep for an app, the production values are awesome and the app itself is thoroughly enjoyable if you like the zombie genre. That being said, I would advise people, especially women, to only use this app in well-populated areas away from traffic in the daytime or on a treadmill as the game does require that you plug yourself into your headphones, something I advise women against safety tips for runners article and in my Vancouver women’s self defense classes. Check out the below video to get an idea of what you’re in for with this app.
3. Lotus Bud Meditation/Mindfulness Apps (Meditation & Minfulness apps). Price: $1.99/Free. While some Zen practitioners may feel that iphones are the antithesis of present-minded living, this app, ironically, can help in the practice of Zen. My favourite tool is the mindfulness bell, which sounds a lovely bell to and random times throughout the day in a time period specified by the user. Whenever the bell sounds, it reminds you to take a moment to become mindful of your present surroundings (if you aren’t already). The mindfulness part of the app is available for free if that’s all you need. If you would like more functions the Lotus Bud Meditation app for $1.99 includes the mindfulness bell, as well as a meditation timer, a tool for scheduling retreats and a tool that reminds you to meditate and tracks your progress in achieving meditation goals. Personally, I find that the mindfulness tool is enough for my needs and I don’t absolutely need the meditation functions (though it is nice to end meditation with the bell rather than the annoying iphone preset sounds). That being said, right now, the app designers is offering the full tool for free for a limited time, so jump on it before the offer ends.
4. MyBoxingPro Trainer App. Price: $2.99. dd I have a B.O.B. standing heavy bag at home for working on my martial arts striking skills. It’s a great workout and gives me the opportunity to train my skills at home. Up until recently, I had just been using my iPhone timer to time my rounds, but it was awkward because it doesn’t give you the option to have rests between rounds like a boxing timer does. So I looked into it and found this app that not only includes a boxing style timer that allows you to schedule both the length of your rounds and the breaks in between, it also has a bell that sounds at the beginning and end of rounds, as well as when you hit the last 30 seconds of each round so you can ramp up a bit at the end. Like the Zombies, RUN! app, it can be used in combination with a music playlist, which is nice, but it doesn’t seem to give you the option to shuffle the songs, which is a little frustrating. To compensate, you have to make sure you have it set to the song you want to start with so you don’t always listen to the same music every time. It also features a “coach” that can call out boxing punches and combos while you train (either pre-set ones or ones you create yourself), but I find it hard to hear over the sound of my punching on the bag, which makes me miss the combos. I prefer not to use the coach at all for this reason. The app is clearly more aimed at a male audience including ring girls in the background of the app screens and in between rounds if you like. There doesn’t seem to be an option to get rid of them from the screens, or better, swap them out for images of cut male boxers (which I would prefer – HINT, HINT dev team…). That being said, I do like using this app for my workouts and thing it’s worth the $2.99 price tag. Below is a YouTube vid demonstrating the app.
5. Smart Alarm Clock App. Price: $1.99/Free. Alarm clocks can often be jarring, especially if it wakes you midway through a sleep cycle. That’s what makes this alarm system so great. You set the time you need to be awake by and turn it on, setting it on your mattress near you when you go to bed. The iPhone’s movement sensor tracks your movements throughout the night in order to keep track of your sleep cycles. The phone will then wake you with one of its graduated, relatively gentle waking alarms when it senses you’re in REM sleep when the awakening threshold is minimal and the wake-up process less jarring. As a general rule, I don’t need to wake up at a particular time, so I don’t absolutely need this app, but if you do, this is a great way to go. The $1.99 version also tracks how well you sleep over time (if that interests you) and includes a few chill-out tracks to fall relax you as you fall asleep. It can also monitor and record sounds that are disturbing your healthy sleep. If you so desire, you can pay extra for upgrades including additional sound tracks and the ability to add your own tracks. While the Smart Alarm Clock Free version doesn’t include these options, it’s still a good choice if all you care about is the wake-up process.
6. All-In Fitness App. Price: $0.99. This app is a very complete fitness app, that includes over 700 exercises, 300 yoga asanas, 100 ready-made work-out programs, and 1000 HD videos for each exercise, and if you want you can add your own exercises too. It also boasts support from professional trainers, though I haven’t tried this feature out. It also offers free fitness articles each month, a calorie counter, body trackers, a workout scheduling tool, and more. As if all that weren’t enough, you can upgrade to the premium plan which adds more workouts, food planning, heart rate calculators, and more. To be honest, I find it a bit overwhelming myself and I don’t find I need all the many tools it offers, but I could see how it would be useful for people who are super into their workout plans and schedules. As a martial arts instructor, it’s a handy tool to have around if you want to add a variety of exercises to the workout portions of your classes (if you don’t have wifi at your school though, you won’t be able to access the videos though). Below is a video that shows how it works:
7. Mint Personal Finance App. Price: Free. This app is critically acclaimed, award-winning app is an extension of Mint’s online personal finance tool at Mint.com. It allows you to track, budget and manage your money all in one place, so you can see where you’re spending and where you can save. In this modern day in which people live paycheck to paycheck and find themselves having credit problems, this tool is invaluable for helping people get their finances under control. Admirably, it’s still being offered free, which is nice to see for something that can really help people as much as it does. While I don’t actively use this tool (I’m really good at managing my finances already), I have talked to a number of people who have found it incredibly useful for managing their spending and saving.